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Britain, France, Germany Seek Greater UN Role in Iraq - 2003-09-20

The leaders of France, Britain and Germany, who met in Berlin Saturday, acknowledged differences over a timetable for transferring power to Iraqi authorities. But the three leaders said they were united in wanting the United Nations to play a greater role in Iraq. The European leaders met just days before the U.N. General Assembly session in New York, where Iraq is expected to be a key subject of debate.

In a news conference following their summit, the three leaders took pains to stress the areas where they were in agreement.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the summit host, said the three leaders shared similar views on a common administrative framework for Europe, a stronger European defense structure, and faster economic growth.

On Iraq - a subject which continues to divide the three countries - British Prime Minister Tony Blair said all three leaders were united in wanting a peaceful transition to democracy in post-Saddam Iraq.

"Whatever the differences there have been about the conflict, we all want to see a stable Iraq," said Tony Blair. "We all want to see Iraq make a transition to a democratic government as quickly as possible. We all want to see, and know there must be, a key role for the United Nations."

But Mr. Blair ducked a question on a timetable for the transition to self-rule. France insists it take place within months.

French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the three leaders were not, quote, on the same line on this matter.

Mr. Chirac repeated his call for the United Nations to take on more responsibility in Iraq. Both Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder - who has largely sided with the French president on the issue - are scheduled to meet soon with President Bush in New York.